International education is important to New Zealand. The education of international students in New Zealand benefits New Zealand’s economy and relationships with other countries. In the school sector, international students add to the cultural diversity of New Zealand schools and provide a source of revenue.

The International Education Agenda, A Strategy for 2007-2012[3] sets out the Government’s vision, strategy, and goals to support the continued development of sustainable, high quality, innovative international education in New Zealand. Goal 2 and its key outcomes are the most relevant for New Zealand schools in their enrolment of international students. This goal states that international students are enriched by their education and living experiences in New Zealand when:

  • they are welcomed, and receive effective orientation guidance, exemplary pastoral care, and learning support
  • they succeed academically and increasingly choose to continue their studies in New Zealand
  • they are well integrated into our educational institutions and communities.

The regulatory environment for the pastoral care of international students

A Code of Practice[4] (the Code) was established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989 to provide a framework for education providers for the pastoral care of international students. Under the Act (section 238E) a provider must be a signatory to the Code before enrolling international students.

The Code (s28.3) states an expectation that signatories review their own performance annually and record the outcomes in a form that can be made available to the Code Administrator if requested.

The Ministry of Education provides Guidelines[5] to support the Code of Practice. The guidelines focus on student needs according to the student’s age, degree of independence and other factors influencing their pastoral care needs. The Ministry of Education’s website has examples of self-review guidelines and attestation forms, but these are not compulsory. The guidelines include little information to guide schools on the information to include as part of their self review of the school’s education programme and outcomes for students.

International students in New Zealand schools

In 2012, there were 9,460 international students enrolled in 521 New Zealand schools, a decrease from 11,107 enrolled in 2011.[6]

Eighty-nine percent of these students were enrolled in 294 secondary or composite schools, with an average of 29 students per school. An average of 4.5 international students was enrolled in each of the 227 primary and intermediate schools.

The international students in schools came from a large number of countries with the biggest groups in 2011[7] from South Korea (27 percent), China (19 percent), Germany (13 percent), Japan (11 percent), and Thailand (8 percent).

Over half of the international students attended school in the Auckland region (57 percent). The region with the next highest proportion of international students was Canterbury (10 percent), followed by five to six percent in each of Wellington, Waikato, Otago and Bay of Plenty. The percentage of international students in Canterbury has decreased from 17 percent before the earthquakes.[8]

ERO’s reporting on schools’ provision for international students

ERO has published six previous reports about international students between 2003 and 2012, and provided an update to the Ministry of Education in 2006/2007.

ERO’s previous reports showed that over time schools have become more aware of their responsibilities under the Code, and more schools are fully compliant with the Code. Since 2010, only a few schools each year have been found not to comply with the Code when reviewed. In 2010, all but four were compliant with the Code and in 2011 only one was not compliant. The small numbers in the last three years are a marked improvement on the first few years. For example, one-quarter of schools reviewed in 2006-2007 and one-third of those reviewed in 2005 were not compliant with at least one aspect of the Code.

ERO’s evaluations showed that schools were generally effective in providing pastoral care and education programmes, and integrating international students into the school and local community. Self review was the weakest area in each of ERO’s recent evaluations.

ERO’s evaluation framework

ERO’s evaluation built on the school’s self review of its international student programme, and looked at how well each school monitored its own compliance with the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Student (the Code).

ERO sought evidence for, and made judgements about, five evaluative questions:

  • How effectively is the school reviewing its provision and outcomes for international students, and using this information for improvement?
  • How effectively does the school provide pastoral care for international students?
  • How effective is the education programme provided in responding to the aspirations, interests and needs of international students or their parents?
  • How well do international students progress and achieve?
  • How effective are the school’s practices for integrating international students into the school and local community?

Indicators and criteria were developed to provide reviewers with the basis for their overall judgement for each question (see Appendix 3). Appendix 4 presents self-review questions schools can use.

Reviewers commented on what was salient for each school and did not refer to every indicator. For this reason, the report does not include percentages of schools that met each of the 46 indicators.

Where possible ERO reviewers based their judgement for each question on the school’s self review.